Behind Enemy Lines
It's still ringing loudly in my ears. I can still feel it inside my head. In fact, when you're in a massive concrete and metal stadium that itself is located in a giant, natural, earthen bowl, the sound and vibration of 55,000 people shouting, "We Are!!", and 55,000 different people answering, "Penn State!!" penetrates your entire body for hours after it stops.
And in State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday the scoreboard lion roars and the chants pretty much came to a stop early in the 3rd quarter when Terrelle Pryor hit Devier Posey on a 62-yard touchdown bomb to break open a close game and turn the tides the Buckeyes way.
By the end of Ohio State's 24-7 win over the Nittany Lions on Saturday night it was easy to navigate the narrow concourses of Beaver Stadium that had, just hours before, been too packed with people to move.
Pryor was efficient (if not frugal) with his throws. Attempting only 17 passes on the afternoon, he connected on eight of those throws for 125 yards and two TDs. Pryor missed a wide open Posey at the end of the first half but rebounded with the long 3rd quarter TD pass and then threw another one to Brandon Saine later in the game off a bootleg.
But it was really more about what Pryor didn't do Saturday in (un) Happy Valley. He didn't throw the ball to the defense, he didn't take any bad sacks and he didn't lose any fumbles. In short, Pryor, behind a conservative offensive game plan, managed a big football game in a hostile environment like he hasn't done before.
The Buckeyes took a lot of pressure off of Pryor early by running the ball very effectively. Film study and game planning came up big when the Buckeyes audibled into run plays that took advantage of the pressure PSU was determined to throw at Pryor all day. On the day the Buckeyes rushed for 228 yards, 50 of it coming with Pryor carrying the ball himself. On more than one big occasion he was able to break contain on the outside of Penn State's defense and pick up key yards and first downs to keep drives alive and to control field position.
But while Pryor got most of the accolades all any of the Nittany Lions fans could talk about after the game was the disruptive Ohio State defense. Penn State senior QB Daryll Clark was under pressure all day long. Rarely did Clark have time to get his feet set much less look down field and find his receivers. Clark was harassed all day by Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson and the rest of the Buckeye defense.
With a 10-7 halftime score the ballgame was still up in the air. But as soon as Pryor hit Posey to make it 17-7 there was doubt and worry among the faithful. As the game played out the crowd thinned and those who remained grumbled about the conservative nature of the Nittany Lion offense and grudgingly gave the Ohio State defense praise for completely shutting down the home team.
I enjoyed the quiet, quick, walk back to the car. And I appreciated that the Buckeyes dominance on Saturday helped empty the horrifically congested parking areas almost an hour before the game ended.
It made the final few Yeungling Lagers, Chesterfield Ales and Yeungling Black & Tans all the colder and all the more enjoyable. After all, when in Rome...
Make no mistake about it, the fans in Happy Valley are rabid, knowledgeable football fans who invest a lot of time and money to travel to what seems like the middle of nowhere and watch their team. But with every year and every loss that are added to Joe Pa's ledger there are more and more detractors and people calling for a fresh approach to the game.
Paterno will name his retirement date and rightfully so. He is a legend in State College. As much for the money he's raised for a library and other university projects as for what his teams have accomplished. But while people love the man and what he's meant to the region there are fewer every day that will truly be crushed when he leaves. They may fear football without Joe Paterno in central PA but there are already those in blue and white gear who are wondering if the change they ultimately know is coming might not be for the best.
Topping it all off with a guided tour of an unbelievably beautiful campus and a 9am trip to The Berkey Creamery was above and beyond the call of duty.
I now fully understand the allure of making that trip for every home game. And I hereby promise to work hard at improving my ‘Washers' skills so that I'm not an embarrassment the next time.
That was a stone groove my man. I'm forever indebted for the offer and an opportunity to watch two of the best in the Big10 go nose to nose.
Let's do that again.